It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 19 min.

Release Date: June 18th, 1955 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Robert Gordon Actors: Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis, Ian Keith, Dean Maddox Jr., Chuck Griffiths

 


 

“I

t Came from Beneath the Sea” is perhaps the most famous giant octopus feature ever made. A vintage science-fiction thriller that makes sublime use of Ray Harryhausen’s legendary stop-motion monstrosities, the film also manages to squeeze in a modest love story and convincing drama amidst the mutant mayhem (as if battles against titans weren’t sufficient enough). Though it loses some of its steam during the lengthier research sequences, it’s nonetheless a milestone in monster movie history – and definitely worth a watch for its influence on projects ranging from “Jaws” (1975) to “Clash of the Titans” (1981) to “Cloverfield” (2008).

Submarine Captain Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey) is attacked during a routine mission by an unknown creature, forcing him to dock for an investigation. Two of the world’s top scientists, Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) are brought in to examine a mass of the sea monster that was caught in the blades of Mathews’ vessel. After 13 days of research, it is decided that the Navy has a colossal, angry, radioactive cephalopod on their hands. After several sightings and attacks around the Pacific, Pete, Lesley, and John split up to attempt cornering and destroying the beast. As the military races to construct a torpedo that can penetrate the leviathan’s skin, it manages to crawl onto dry land and wreak havoc on the Golden Gate Bridge – before destructively wriggling its way through the Embarcadero.

A classic yet cheesy B-movie concoction, “It Came From Beneath the Sea” wastes no time cruising right into the action with Captain Mathews’ submersible getting assaulted by the troublesome devilfish. But shortly after the foreboding introduction, a rather lengthy segment of screentime is spent witnessing the two lead scientists working long hours studying the hunk of skin that was recovered from the ambush. It’s odd to see that in a low-budget horror movie there’s enough time for pointless chatter and a steadily blossoming romance between warrior and intellectual. It may be a competent subplot on its own, but it doesn’t mix well with the tentacled creature’s advances; even though the film runs a mere 79 minutes, the pacing is conspicuously flawed.

Harryhausen’s many-armed gargantuan (for budgetary reasons, it actually only possessed six appendages) is easily the best reason to watch this production. It’s amazing that despite its mid-‘50s release, the monster doesn’t lose any of its ferocity or terror, thanks to the practically defunct stop-motion animation technique that brought it to exhilarating life. Several of the scenes in which the thick, slimy tentacles of the beast crawl along the Golden Gate Bridge and capsize a fishing boat are almost identical to Davy Jones’ Kracken from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, which merely updates the pulsing suction cups with improved sound effects and more ooze. But the excitement from the devastating interactions with humans and buildings isn’t any less intense here than in newer projects that have more advanced special effects at their disposal. This proves that with talented filmmakers, even an archaic form of creature design can compete with modern technology.

Unfortunately, a few things do detract from the impressiveness of the octopus antagonist and its obvious derivation from nuclear weapon fears. The dialogue is, at times, expectedly mediocre; Pete’s flirtations with the conveniently gorgeous female scientist are routinely artificial; and the narrator, who butts in intermittently to update the audience about lapses in time, talks about every event as if it were real, hoping to coax the viewer into a similar belief. This last gimmick is not unlike “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “The Blair Witch Project,” or numerous other pictures that attempt to add realism and tension by pushing the idea that the imagery is somehow based on fact. Here, however, it’s woefully flimsy.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10


The Complete Ray Harryhausen


The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Mysterious Island (1961)

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

First Men in the Moon (1964)

One Million Years B.C. (1967)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Clash of the Titans (1981)